Success had found the Bret Harte High School girls’ cross country team, but never like it did in 1988. Heading into the 1988 season, the Bullfrogs had won three straight Mother Lode League titles and five overall since 1981.
It was postseason success that seemed to run past Bret Harte. However in 1988, that all changed. Led by a squad of veterans and a superstar freshman, the Bullfrogs not only kept their hold on the league title, but also captured their first ever CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and CIF State championship.
“Though I do not have exact memories of our time leading up to the state championship, what I do know is we cared a lot for each other and trusted each other’s commitment to the team,” said former Bret Harte cross country runner Tanya Ehlert (née Dooley).
Led by head coach Tony O’Geen, the Bullfrogs leaned on veteran runners like Dooley, Michelle Brown, Camilla Maynard and Candi Courtright. But perhaps the missing link from previous years was the addition of freshman Amy Davidson. Davidson began the 1988 season on the junior varsity squad, not only finishing the year running at the varsity level, but was the seventh-place finisher at the state championship.
The season began with Davidson running with the junior varsity and nevertheless, the Bullfrogs had a strong showing at the Jesuit Invitational at Sierra College. The race, which featured over 100 runners and 20 different schools, ended with Dooley placing third and Brown finishing 10th. Bret Harte then won the Edison Invitational, with Dooley finishing first overall and Brown placing third. At a Mother Lode League meet early in the season, Dooley placed ninth overall, which helped the Bullfrogs finish third. Dooley finished the race with a time of 22:13.
The Bullfrogs won their own invitational race held at Frogtown, as 20 small schools and nearly 1,040 runners participated. Bret Harte took first, followed by Loretto and St. Mary’s. Dooley finished second, while Neriah Davis was third, Jennifer Quincy was fourth, Brown was sixth and Courtright placed 12th.
By the time Bret Harte competed in the Rio Linda Invitational meet in Sacramento, Davidson had joined the squad. Dooley finished second overall, followed by Brown and then Davidson placed seventh.
Once the Mother Lode League meet rolled around, the Bullfrogs were a well-oiled machine. Bret Harte took the league title with a perfect score of 15. Dooley finished the 2.6-mile run first with her time of 17:39, followed by Davidson (17:39); Brown (17:39); Quincy (19:21); Davis (19:22); Courtright (19:50); Maynard (21:02); and Leah Banks (21:30).
One week after winning the Mother Lode League championship for the fourth straight year, the Bullfrogs continued their winning ways at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section subsection race. Bret Harte placed first, while Dooley finished sixth (20:14) out of 100 runners in the three-mile race. Davidson placed seventh (20:18) in the biggest race of her young career and was followed by an eighth-place finish from Brown (20:24).
With the first-place finish at subsections, the Bullfrogs were primed and ready to go heading into the section championship. Bret Harte outran Loretto to capture the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title. And with so much at stake, Davidson placed first overall with her time of 14:51. Dooley placed second (20:04), Brown was fourth (20:18), Davis finished fifth (20:23), Quincy was sixth (20:39), Courtright finished seventh (21:53) and Maynard placed 10th overall (22:33).
With the section championship officially captured, the only race left to run was the state championship. The Bullfrogs made the trip to Woodward Park in Fresno and placed first with a score of 51 to capture the CIF State Division III title. The second-place team was Maranatha, of Los Angeles, who finished with 102 points.
Davidson was the first Bullfrog to cross the finish line and she did in 19:57. Davidson was the seventh overall finisher and Dooley was one behind with her time of 20:00. Other times were Quincy (20:22); Davis (20:22); Brown (20:32); Courtright (22:26) and Maynard (22:37).
“Winning the state championship was a deep gift,” Ehlert said. “It created a deeper unity to our team and school and it indicated to me that though you may be small and unknown, you can bring great heart, strength and courage beyond that which has the accompaniment of money and prestige.”
Not only did the Bullfrogs win every major championship in 1988, but they had a repeat performance in 1989. After the 1988 season, Bret Harte’s girls’ cross country team went on to win 21 league titles, 12 section titles, and one more state championship in 1989.
The 1988 Bret Harte girls’ cross country team, along with the 1989 squad, was inducted into the inaugural class of the Bret Harte High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018. O’Geen and Dooley are also individual members of the Bret Harte Athletic Hall of Fame.